NYCS Swag Spotlight: Ana Cristina Cash

Ana Cristina Cash

Born and raised in Miami, our Swag Spotlight this week, Ana Cristina Cash grew up listening to music in English and Spanish which shaped her artistry from a very young age.  Her parents moved to Florida from Cuba in the 1960s and were avid music lovers.  She tells New York Country Swag in a recent interview that her first concert was Gloria Estefan and she loved watching her perform live.

Her influences throughout her childhood included Barbara Streisand, The Carpenters, and even Madonna.  She recalls her sisters having friends over and watching them make up dances to Michael Jackson songs, all the while curating a love for all kinds of music being instilled in her.  “As I started growing into my own, I was heavily influenced by Jazz singers and country music singers,” Cash explains.  “Etta James, Patsy Cline, Leann Rimes, Faith Hill, and Shania Twain,  their voices and their stories were huge influences on me.”

Cash was fluent in Spanish and English as a child and now she always goes back to her roots when making decisions about her musical career. As a child, she performed on the longest running variety show, “Sábado Gigante”, which she explains was like The Mickey Mouse Club but in Spanish.  That experience gave her the chance to work with professionals in the business very early on. “I began singing demos of popular songs and dabbled in writing when I was 13, 14, 15 years old. My demos were brought to an A&R person at Sony Music Latin who’s offices were in Miami and they offered me a job as an artist,” Cash tells us. She learned as a teenager the ins and outs of the industry, setting her up for a long career as a bilingual singer.

She met her husband John Carter Cash, the son of June Carter and Johnny Cash in a hotel in LA, they quickly became friends and it took John nine months to ask her out on a date. “We were drawn to each other and our mutual interests. We are a lot alike even though we come from two totally different worlds, me being from Miami and him being a Tennessee boy, we are so much alike, you would think we were cut from the same cloth,” she lovingly says. She admits that growing up in Miami without the ability to stream music on the internet, she had never really heard any of his father’s classic hits but now has a great appreciation for not only the way his father shaped country music but his mother as well. “It is great to be a part of a musical family, to have the inspiration. Now, I have nieces and nephews that sing and play instruments,” she tells us. John is a product of both parents being in the music industry, now their child, a 13-month-old baby girl is a product of both parents being in the music industry as well. “She’s very musical, I was 9 months pregnant and still performing.”

She prides herself on creating a country fusion sound mixed with blues and most recently fulfilled a lifelong dream of recording a Christmas album. “I always admired classic traditional Christmas songs and it is something I thought about doing for a long long time and I’m so blessed to be able to have done it,” Cash says.  She worked with her husband over the course of several years, recording My Christmas Collection at the Cash Cabin Studios.  The album features her versions of the classic holiday songs including “O Holy Night”, “Santa Baby” and of course “The Christmas Song”.  She and her husband perform a duet of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” as well as an original song that they penned together, “Santa Claus is Real”. “I love Christmas songs, I listen the entire year, not just during the season. I love the warmth that those songs inspire and how they make you feel and remind you of family and a joyful time in your life, I wanted something that sparked that joy,” she says of the album. She even sings one verse of “Silent Night” in Spanish, speaking to her bilingual fans and resonating with her culture.  The entire project has a very old-timey sound, channeling the greats of the past who have put their mark on the Christmas season by recording the classic holiday hits. Take a listen to My Christmas Collection below.

Looking ahead to the new year, she plans on releasing a full-length album of original songs which was produced by her husband John.  For all upcoming announcements and news follow Ana Cristina on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

 

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NYCS Swag Spotlight Featuring Karen Waldrup

“Work hard, don’t stop, persevere and believe, because if you want something in life it’s not always so easy but every single moment that it took to get you to that point is justified.”

Karen Waldrup, this week’s Swag Spotlight spoke with New York Country Swag recently about her journey in the music business and how she is utilizing technology to reach her fans in new and innovative ways.  Growing up in Lousiana, Waldrup recalls her sister sending away for country music CDs and they were always being played in her house.  The Dixie Chicks, Trisha Yearwood, and Dolly Parton are just some of the influences that attracted her to the genre from a very young age.  “I just thought it would be fun to write and create music, it was more about writing but once I started playing out for people I started to get addicted to the feeling of fans connecting to their own story to my music,” she explains.  She started to write songs and learned to play guitar when she was still in high school but it was when she was in college at The University of Southern Mississippi that she started playing gigs and truly pursuing the career.

Moving to Nashville after college she got a job as a salesperson to pay the bills all while continuing to write and play around town. “This town has been such a beautiful gift, it is kind and the community is really nice,” she explains.  Although she’s been in Music City for ten years now, she will never forget her southern Lousiana roots. She integrates a certain amount of soul and blues into the country genre, all the way being proud of who she is and proud that her home state accepts people for the good, bad, and the ugly.

As an independent artist, Waldrup decided to launch an Indiegogo campaign to fund her debut full-length album back in 2016. She recalls a particular moment during a live stream where a woman requested she sing the inspirational “I Hope You Dance” for her daughter’s birthday.  The video almost instantly went viral, racking up over 29 million views and the cover was also appropriately the last song on the record.  Check out the cover song below.

After going viral, the Indiegogo campaign was 100% funded and Waldrup was able to start recording the album she moved to Nashville to create.  Cowriting 9 of the 11 tracks on her debut full-length album Justified, the sing-songwriter says it took a lot of time to decide on the songs that would compile a well thought out, themed record. She wanted to prove that every step along the way was justified to getting her to where she can now release an independent album of her own. “All of these people have justified that I can do this, every bar I’ve played, every private event, I have played in Tulsa, Oklahoma to two people and one was the bartender, I have paid my dues,” she tells us.

Utilizing technology and the power of social media, Waldrup has now built a family of fans across Facebook and Instagram totaling over 500 thousand people. They don’t only use social media to communicate with the artist and her team but also with each other, creating a welcoming space for people who love her music.  She has a series where every Wednesday she posts a new video for her followers, allowing them to see into the life of the singer-songwriter.  Another innovative way the artist is connecting with her fans is through Binge Networks, a network through smart TVs. All of her Waldrup Wednesday videos are now available through the Binge Network app, for more information head to bingenetworks.tv. 

Social media has proved that you can interact with your fans in ways never thought possible before. Waldrup explained that someone said something to her recently and it really clicked how important the internet fanbase can be, “You created a career for yourself that may not have happened otherwise,” she says. “Back in the day if you didn’t have a fancy record deal, go back home.”  Her latest single “Sometimes He Does” was written by Lori McKenna (“Girl Crush”, “Humble and Kind”) was just included in Rolling Stones “10 Best Country and Americana Songs of the Week” and the video premiered on CMT.com.  “It melts my heart every time I hear it, I heard it 6 years ago and I ended up being able to record it and it ended up on my record by the grace of God,” she says of the single.

As for what’s next, she looks forward to the new year, touring and heading over to the Virgin Islands and Jamaica as well as Europe, promoting her album and meeting more fans.  Keep up with Karen Waldrup on social media on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

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NYCS Swag Spotlight Featuring Risa Binder

Risa Binder

 

Columbia, Maryland native, Risa Binder currently splits her time between Nashville and New York, finding inspiration wherever she goes. She grew up writing songs about boys that she had crushes on in high school and singing into old corn husks like they were her microphone with her sister, knowing from an early age where her passion lies.  She tells New York Country Swag in a recent interview that her family was always listening to all different types of music but she found a love for musical theatre before becoming obsessed with country music. “I loved Reba McEntire and Martina McBride because these women told stories, and theatre songs and country songs are very similar, they tell a great story and the truth through song,” she tells us.

She decided to travel to Nashville and attended a songwriter night at The Bluebird Cafe that changed her life.  She heard one of the writers of Garth Brooks’ “The Dance” sing his song and that is when she knew that she wanted to write hit songs for a living. “I went to New York City and I would waitress to save money and would go down to Nashville and the city sort of became my grad school,” Binder recalls.  “I would find the country venues in New York and play there and then I would go out to Nashville and play there.”

Eventually, her record label Warehouse Records decided it was time for her to make the move to Nashville but before she made the big move she prayed to God for a sign that it was the right thing for her. After spending a flight down to Nashville sitting next to songwriter Beth Nielsen Chapman (“This Kiss”) and learning all about her story she got the sign she was looking for. “We had a wonderful conversation and at the end of the flight, she asked if we could help her grab her guitar case.  Jordan, my husband gets it, she swings it over her shoulder and her guitar case says “Faith” in big letters.”

Two months later, Chapman invited Binder to be her guest at The Bluebird Cafe, fulfilling a dream she had when she first started in this business. “Things like that keep happening, when you are following that passion, magic stuff starts showing up,” she says.  She had the opportunity to open for Ronnie Milsap on the night he was being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and then continued to be his opening act for the better part of two years.  On touring with Milsap she explains: “I fell in love with how much of a family the road could be. My band is my family. We love each other, we are all trying to make this dream happen.”

Her single “You Came Along” was written by Locash, Phil Barton and Lindsey Rimes and she completely fell in love with the song immediately, telling us originally she thought it was about the love she had for her husband.  After recording the song she found out she was pregnant with her daughter and her perspective on the song changed.  “We filmed that music video 3 weeks after I gave birth and she’s in it at the very end.” Check out the video for the beautiful song above.

As she continues to write and record music, she tells us that she is a huge fan of dream boards and putting your future plans into the universe. “What you put out there if you focus on it and you are working towards it and you have a photo of it that you look at every day, it actually comes true,” she says.  We found out that currently on her dream board in her apartments in Nashville and New York are pictures of big festivals and the Grand Ole Opry. She explains she would love to play Stagecoach one day as well as play at the Grand Ole Opry. “It may take 5 years or 7 years, but if you keep writing and performing you hope one day you’ll be able to step into that circle.  You have to listen to your own heartbeat and why it’s beating and follow that.”

Looking to the future she will continue to release singles and tour in 2019.  Be sure to follow Risa Binder on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter for all upcoming announcements and new music.

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NYCS Swag Spotlight Featuring Bastian Baker

Bastian Baker

Photo Credit: Ronny Grauer

 

This week’s Swag Spotlight did not grow up riding tractors or bailing hay, in fact, he did not even grow up in the United States at all. Bastian Baker is native of Switzerland, near Geneva he tells us in a recent phone interview. The singer-songwriter was chatting with our Managing Editor from a cab in Paris on his way to the airport to continue as the opening act for Shania Twain’s “Now Tour”.

His childhood was filled with music, he says his parents listened to REM, Led Zeppelin, and Queen and he knew from an early age that he loved performing. “I’ve had this thing for music since I was a baby, I have pictures of me singing with a plastic Michael Jackson guitar on Christmas Eve and I’ve always been into creating music. I created bands when I was in school, played bars and weddings when I was 13-14 years old. I was part of the choir, it kind of always was an obsession.”

Music wasn’t the only dream that Baker was chasing, he loved playing ice hockey and even made the Swiss National team and played in world champions but when he was 18 years old he realized that he wanted to pursue music as a serious career choice and started sending demo tapes out and playing newcomer festivals.  He explains he was discovered while playing songs at 2 in the morning at a birthday party, leading him the opportunity to record his very first song, “Lucky”, which made it onto the radio in Switzerland. Pretty quickly after that, he made his debut at the prestigious Montreux Jazz Festival and started selling out headlining shows and topping the charts.

He explains to us his fascination and love for New York City. “I have always had a lot of great NY experiences, it is my favorite city in the world.”  He has spent time recording and writing songs here as well as in Nashville, getting ready for the release of his official American debut album.  Baker tells us that he is proud that his music can be described in many different ways, not boxing him into any one genre. “My first album was kind of pop, the second was rock, the third was folk, and now this one is a genre-defying album, there are a lot of different styles, there are definitely are country influences.” He specifically names “Blame It On Me”, a track that is simple, Baker’s vocals resting easily on an acoustic guitar.  For his fans that aren’t into the country genre, he also has music influenced by R&B, for instance, he tells us that The Weeknd is an artist that inspires him. “I kind of want to do the Shania Twain thing, how she became a crossover artist and she did it in a brilliant way,” he explains” That is part of the reason why she wanted me on her tour,  [my music] is not a specific genre, I’m just having fun playing music.”

He comments that of course, the concept of an album and releasing a full project of songs is so important but now with streaming as prevalent as it is, he is proud that his songs aren’t necessarily defined into one genre. “Nowadays, songs are being added to playlists and I find it pretty cool that my songs can be added to a country music playlist while they are also added to singer-songwriter playlists or pop playlists,” Baker says. “That is the beauty of music, it brings people together.”

Chatting about Shania Twain’s World Tour, he tells us how much he has enjoyed getting to play for these huge arenas of fans in the states. “It’s so much fun, I love to just be me and my guitar, a lot of people think I am crazy but I find it hilarious, there is no pedal loops or anything, I have a half an hour to show my songs and my personality.”  Praising Twain as an entertainer and a person, he is lucky to have had the opportunity to open this tour and to come back during her set to sing a duet with her. “I love that I have 100% of the trust of Shania, she was the one who said I should do it alone, she told me a few times I am the only guy she knows who can get on stage alone and get the attention of the audience.”  He loves the passion that he feels from the crowds in America and is happy to meet every single fan who show up at his merchandise table after his set.

His own personal brand of storytelling is unique, bringing a new perspective on life.  Since setting out on this musical journey, Baker has performed in 40 different countries and has garnered fans all over the world.  The Shania Twain Now Tour continues through the end of the year.  Looking to the future, he tells us that he can’t wait to continue promoting the new album and putting together a global tour, hopefully making his way back to the states next summer.  Be sure to follow Bastian Baker on his socials, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook and take a listen to his newest, self-titled album below.

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NYCS Swag Spotlight Featuring Teddy Robb

Teddy Robb

Photo Credit: Matthew Berinato

One of the most talked about new singer-songwriters in Nashville is our Swag Spotlight this week, Teddy Robb.  Robb grew up in Akron, Ohio and didn’t really start listening to country music until high school.  Before that, he listened to classic rock like Bob Seger, The Eagles, ACDC and Pink Floyd.  He laughs as he explains that he only started listening to country music for a girl. “I thought, ‘No that is just for sad people and for people who’s dog died and their truck broke down’ but then I remember listening to “Summertime” by Kenny Chesney and I was like…oh actually this is really fun I can get into this,” he tells us.  From then on he loved Brooks and Dunn, Tim McGraw and of course, Kenny Chesney.  He didn’t play music growing up, instead, he played sports and even played football in college for a few years but after he stopped playing football he took that passion and newly founded free time and started learning how to play guitar.  After a teacher challenged him to play one night at an open mic night, he fell in love with performing and being up on stage.

“I started playing local clubs in Akron, Ohio and before long I decided I wanted to move to Nashville so one morning I just woke up and said this is the day, I am moving,” he explains his spontaneous decision. He played honky-tonks and cover songs for about a year before once again making a big move, this time to Colorado. He was captivated by the lifestyle, as an outdoorsman, being able to hike and fish in the summer and ski and snowboard in the winter, he loved living there.  All the while, he was playing country music at night, honing in on his craft and perfecting his sound.  He explains that although he was playing country music, every once in a while a request would come in for something a little different, whether it was John Prine, Bob Dylan or Pure Prairie League. This allowed him to open up his musical horizons and eventually create the sound that he now brings back to Nashville. His voice, his delivery, and his lyrics are the perfect blend of laid back folk and modern country.

His travels from Ohio to Nashville to Colorado and back to Nashville again have taught him lessons about himself as a musician and allowed him to learn about the type of music he wanted to create. “On a whim, a little bit of luck and a little bit of hard work, that is how I got here,” Robb tells us. He signed with Sony Monument Records and started getting into writing rooms around town.  “I connected with the SMACK writers, I knew it felt very natural and I knew I wanted to end up being there and then they offered me a publishing deal,” he recalls.  “Since then I have been there writing every day.”

He tells us when he was 20 years old he heard George Strait’s “Troubadour” for the first time, a memory that he will always remember as the moment he knew he wanted to pursue a career in music.  He had the pleasure of being in a writing room one day with one of the writers of that song, Leslie Satcher.  He took the opportunity to explain to her how that song had changed the course of his life. “I’m in a room with somebody writing a song with them and they wrote a song in the past that is a huge reason why I am here today playing music. It was an incredible experience for me,” he tells us. “Nashville is a really special town because of those types of moments.”

Robb released his debut single earlier this year, “Lead Me On” was written with SMACK writers, Matt McGinn, Ryan Beaver, and Aaron Eshuis and produced by Shane McAnally. It is an upbeat honest track, a fun song that has a unique twist, where the singer doesn’t mind the cat and mouse game.  His raspy voice and sultry delivery will have any listener throwing out the relationships rulebook. He explains that he truly loves the song and decided it should be the first single because of its versatility. “It’s the first one I wrote with SMACK writers and I think it leaves us room to go left or right, once we pick another song, that one doesn’t put us in a box of this is what we are, it has a nice availability to go a little more pop country or traditional.”  He performed “Lead Me On” along with other songs recently at an exclusive event in Nashville hosted by SMACKSongs.  Read our recap of the special night here.  He also hosted his own writer’s round featuring Blake Chaffin and JT Harding where he impressed even more fans in Nashville.

Looking ahead, he is playing another writers round tonight (Mon, 11/5), be sure to head to our Instagram for video clips from the show.  He is looking forward to getting out on the road and expanding his reach, playing his new music and eventually putting out an EP of that new music. Grab “Lead Me On” here and follow Teddy Robb on Instagram for the latest updates.

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NYCS Swag Spotlight Featuring Kelleigh Bannen

“Is it really true that there isn’t a place for us? We’ve been told that for so long, I was told that 10 years ago and 2011 when I signed my first record deal and now it’s even worse, that we are even less of a presence on the radio and I don’t say that to call out radio, I just want to know is it true that in 2018 there is no room for women in this genre?” 

Kelleigh Bannen

Singer-songwriter Kelleigh Bannen took the time to chat with our Managing Editor recently about growing up in the heart of music city, finding her path to her music career and especially about being a woman in this music industry.  Although she may be a new artist being played across your Spotify or your radio waves, Bannen has been in this industry, working to unveil the struggles and provide an honest look at the life of a singer and songwriter for years.  She did grow up in Nashville but that does not mean that she automatically chose the life she is now pursuing.  “The people that I knew that were chasing country music were our babysitters who moved to town and they would sing jingles and trying to get there break and I really just saw a lot of people come to town and then go home when it didn’t work out. To me as a Nashville native, the music business felt really unattainable,” she explained. She grew up learning to play classical instruments like the violin and even to this day says that it informs the melody in her writing.

She fell in love with storytelling, the way Garth Brooks, Alison Krauss, and even Frank Sinatra would express the lyrics in a song.  In high school is when her admiration for women in country music started, looking to Martina McBride, Patty Loveless, Faith Hill and Trisha Yearwood for inspiration.  Now, as her own artist creating music, she strives to always write the best song, looking for lyrics that mean something and tell a great story.

Most recently she released a mini EP, The Joneses, featuring three songs all co-written by Bannen.  Her latest single, “Happy Birthday” has resonated with fans and listeners after she premiered it on Sirius XM The Highway which has fully embraced all three songs, playing them for their listeners across the country.  The track tells the story of missing someone on their birthday and making the bold choice to reach out even though it may not be the best decision at the time.  “I love that way that songs happen to you as a writer, you work really hard and you try really hard to do certain things in the writing room but the most magical things that happen, are the things that happen to you,” Bannen explains about the writing process.

Besides songwriting and recording new music, Bannen has her own podcast.  ‘This Nashville Life’ discusses the inner workings of the music industry, the good, the bad, and the sometimes not so pretty.  She features executives, Nashville’s biggest songwriters and influencers in the business looking to shine a light on what fans of the genre may not realize. “I have a neat perspective where I can be an ambassador for our town and I love storytelling and I think there are so many ways to go about it and it’s just another way to be a storyteller and to advocate for our business, not from a financial perspective from a heart perspective,” she says.  “I really care about what we do and I care that great songs still have a place in this world. I really care about people knowing about those stories and another way to let the fan in and connect with what we are doing and let them peek behind the curtain and be a part of it.”  She explains that she loves how in country music the artists and the songwriters have an intimate relationship with their fans and this podcast is just another way to let them be involved in the process behind the songs that they are supporting. Click here to listen to ‘This Nashville Life’.

Finally, we discuss the topic on everyone’s minds this past month, women in country music.  Bannen has a lot to say and laughs telling us, “Okay, this is going to be a long answer…”.  Earlier this month, Little Big Town’s Karen Fairchild included her name during her acceptance speech at the CMT Artist of the Year event, proving that women are making great music they just need the recognition and chance to be heard.  First, she comments on how much she respects and admires Karen and Kimberly from Little Big Town and explains that they have been huge supporters of her career for many years. After that, she digs into the real problem, being told that there isn’t a place for women in this genre. “I just want to know is it true that in 2018 there is no room for women in this genre? What the heck, I don’t believe that there isn’t an audience for us because we are telling the truth about our lives, we are writing our asses off, we are singing our asses off, I just don’t believe it, I just believe there is a disconnect.”

She says these things, not knocking the men who are out there getting radio play and huge tours, she is happy for their success, however, she knows that it isn’t just the women that need to advocate for other women, the men need to step out and do it too. “What we need is the opportunity and when you hear a song of ours that you love, don’t just text me privately, it is so sweet but I want to be like ‘Hey, thank you, can you please tell someone.’ My girls do it, Raelynn just shared the video this week, Kelsea [Ballerini] did it when the song first came out so, hey dudes, we need you to use your incredible platform to champion us. We are so glad that you get the opportunities that you have we are just asking to champion us too,” she passionately expresses.  She honestly tells us that although she understands how the business works, she hopes that we can break the cycle of women not being played on the radio, therefore they don’t have hit singles and then don’t get picked up for major tours.

As an independant artist, Bannen is continuing to pave her own journey in this industry, releasing music and looking forward to a full-length album in the new year. Be sure to follow Kelligh Bannen on social media, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter and listen to The Joneses below.

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NYCS Swag Spotlight Featuring Matt Williams

Matt Williams

Growing up in a small town, Geneva County, Alabama, our next Swag Spotlight Matt Williams says in a recent interview that music was vital in his household.  His grandfather was always singing, his aunt played piano and from a young age, he learned to play piano and drums.  Growing up on classic rock with his stepdad being a great guitarist, he explains that he didn’t listen to country music until he entered the military when he was 18 years old. He credits Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Sound Garden as his personal preference in music until he heard artists like Jason Aldean, Eric Church and Brantley Gilbert who all found a way to blend rock into the traditional country sound.

Williams’ picked up on songwriting after he returned from his time in the military and just recently released his EP, Back To Me. “Being in the service was fun, some of the best times and worst times of my life,” he tells us. “It really matures you in a way that regular life is not going to. I got thrown into combat, I was sitting on the front lines of a war, when you are getting shot at your whole mindset changes.”

As a United States Army vet, Williams has found that instead of talking to a therapist about the difficult times he faced in the service, he has found music to be a therapy in itself. “I had matured and I have experienced a lot of things in life that a lot of people will never experience, it gave me a different look and approach to writing, putting words on paper to tell a story through song,” he explains.

The EP shows a vulnerable side of a soldier turned singer-songwriter. He is straightforward in his songwriting and the project highlights a raw honesty that is sometimes missing in country music. “Even if something is so bad, I try and figure out a way to tell you what happens and tell you what was bad but make it inspirational and no matter what you can still achieve if you have faith,” Williams says of his approach to writing. Take a listen to his EP below.

He is currently residing with his wife and family in Michigan but travels to Nashville quite often.  He is working to set up a tour that will work to promote the new music.  Be sure to follow Matt Williams on social media – Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

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NYCS Swag Spotlight Featuring Brett Sheroky

Brett Sheroky

Sometimes you hear a song, and even if you can’t necessarily relate to all of the lyrics, it stops you in your tracks because of the raw honesty the singer conveys.  Our Swag Spotlight this week, Brett Sheroky’s “Better On Paper” did exactly that for our Managing Editor, Christina. In their most recent interview, the songwriter turned artist talked about his influences, his decision to move to Nashville and the support he lovingly receives from his wife.

Growing up in St. Louis, there wasn’t a huge music scene for Sheroky to gravitate towards however music was always a staple in his house.  The classic country music artists, as well as The Eagles and Jimmy Buffet, were some of the greats he names as music that inspired him when he was young.  He learned to play guitar and started listening to classic rock and even credits his two sisters for getting him to experience 80’s pop.

He met his wife while they were both in school to become speech therapists, and just one day after they got married, they moved down to Nashville so he could pursue his dreams of being a songwriter. “It was drilled in my head that I had to have a career even though I always wanted to do the music thing, so I went to school for speech therapy and that is where I met my wife,” Sheroky tells us.  “I never really wanted to be a speech therapist but it was a means to an end, there were a lot of opportunities that let you pick your own hours and schedules so I could work that around music so I went with it.”

Just a few short months after moving to Nashville, Sheroky was diagnosed with cancer, a battle that he had to face head-on with aggressive chemotherapy and surgery.  “I do remember thinking, I just got here, I don’t even know if I’ll ever be able to give this thing a shot,” Sheroky says of songwriting.  “It was one of those things, I definitely thought about music a lot, it was a motivating factor, you’ve gotta beat this because you have to go do this thing.”  Currently, he is in remission and wakes up every day grateful for the chances he is given.

His journey as a songwriter and now an artist is unique and he continues to pursue the dream with the incredible support of his wife, whom he calls his hero.  “We have 3 little kids and she plays the part of a single mom a lot, we have to sacrifice time as a family since this business demands that and I can count on one hand in all of the years that we’ve been together that she has said it’s been too much for her and she’s complained,” he thoughtfully explains.  “She is an incredible person and I am very lucky and blessed to have her in my life and her support is everything, honestly.”

When discussing his current single, “Better On Paper” which was one of our September Picks, we are glad to hear that the story of a broken marriage and divorce is not based on actual events, rather an honest depiction of a real-life struggle many have to face. “I am super proud of that song, It is an important song, a lot of people experience that and even though I haven’t gone through it personally, life isn’t always drinking beers on a tailgate, there is real stuff that happens in life and it is easy to lose sight of that being a writer in Nashville, you are under pressure to write singles.”  The video for the track premiered exclusively on NYCountry Swag last month and you can watch the simple yet heart-wrenching visual above.

Striving to blend the commercial with substance in his songs, Sheroky explains that for now, he only will record songs he has written because he wants to convey realness in what he was feeling when he put the pen to paper then ultimately records and releases music.

“My journey has been a slower one but in a way, I feel like, I know it sounds cliche, I feel like it was supposed to be that way. I appreciate every step forward I take in this business,” Sheroky says, looking ahead to the future.  He plans to continue to release music as an independent artist and follow the path set before him, always remaining genuine and pursuing the dream he set out when he moved to Nashville.

Be sure to follow Brett Sheroky on social media for any and all updates – Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter and listen to “Better On Paper” on our ‘What We’re Listening To: Team Picks’ Spotify Playlist below.

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NYCS Swag Spotlight Featuring Valerie Ponzio

Valerie Ponzio

Photo via www.valerieponzio.com

Recently, the country music umbrella has expanded thanks to artists like Maren Morris and Florida Georgia Line bringing pop influences, The Cadillac Three bringing a southern rock vibe and even Lady Antebellum adding a horn section into their latest album.  This week’s Swag Spotlight focuses on Valerie Ponzio, a singer-songwriter who grew up in a West Texas town, El Paso which borders Mexico and New Mexico, she hopes to bring her own blend of country music and Latin music to a new fanbase.  “I like to play different places and shed light on the region that I am from and the interesting Latin/country mix that they are known for,”  Ponzio tells us.

Her influences growing up and currently, range from strong female vocalists such as Sheryl Crow and Mariah Carey to Sting, Johnny Cash, and Luke Bryan as well as Shakira and the mariachi bands that she grew up listening to in Texas. Those sounds all come together to create Valerie’s undeniable signature sound, something that she prides her self on. “In the writing room, I try to bring Latin artists, as well as country artists as my influences and as far as where I want my songs to go,” she tells us, “It’s a funny mix between country and Latin, where I am at, it is where I steer all of my music and my live performance too.”

Most recently, Ponzio was a four-chair turn on season 12 of the popular singing competition, The Voice, ultimately choosing Blake Shelton as her mentor.  She chose to sing the Johnny Cash classic “Ring Of Fire” which although is traditionally a country song, sonically has a Latin energy, with mariachi horns in the chorus. “People are very passionate about Johnny Cash, you want to make it your own but do it as much as you can to pay your tribute and the style of the song,” she explains of her audition. Her sultry and slowed down version caught the attention of all four of the judges, Adam Levine exclaiming, “You are the most well-rounded singer, I think, for this particular panel of judges that I really kind of ever heard.”

She explains that the opportunity to be showcased on one of the most popular singing competitions is a crazy rollercoaster ride. “It was such a high moment in my life that I got to share with the people I love,” Ponzio tells us of her entire family being present for her blind audition. “It helped me grow as a singer and a performer.”  After the show, she moved to Nashville and is grateful for all of the connections and opportunities that have come her way.  She is writing as much as she can and taking every chance to spread her unique blend of music to new fans.

Her debut EP, Timeless, was released in July and features four original songs and the title track in English and Spanish.  Three of the four songs were written by Ponzio herself, as she represents her journey of moving to Nashville to further pursue her dreams and falling in love.  She explains that moving to Nashville has taught her so much about music and writing and even learning to let go and let the best song win.  When she heard “Morning” which was written by fellow Latin/country artists Sammy Arriaga she knew she had to record it for her own project although she didn’t write it herself. “The song is king here, you learn to respect that, even if I didn’t write it, there is something so amazing and putting that first and then seeing people react to it,” she says.

She is currently playing shows in Nashville, promoting the new music and looking forward to bringing her sound to other places around the country including places that primarily Latin markets that may not specifically listen to country music.  She hopes to put a tour together for early 2019.  Be sure to follow Valerie Ponzio on social media including Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

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NYCS Swag Spotlight Featuring Logan Brill

Logan Brill

Tennessee native Logan Brill is back with brand new music and took time to chat with New York Country Swag about growing up learning about music and what she’s been up to for last three years since the release of her debut album, Shuteye.

After her parents split when she was young, she spent her time between East Tennessee and Middle Tennessee and recalls the weekends she spent on her father’s 40-acre property, listening to her father’s records and learning all about his favorite bands.  “We didn’t have cable television, we would chop wood to heat our place with a wood stove, it was pretty rustic but it was a space to be creative because that was really all you could do,” she tells us.

Cultivating a musical space for her to learn, her father had a room filled with tons of musical instruments including banjos, violins and guitars.  Brill decided early on that her father’s love of music was certainly something she wanted to pursue as her lifelong career.  She was ten years old when she and her sister picked up guitars and taught themselves different chords from a Bob Dylan songbook.

She remembers her father and his friends having jam sessions at least once a month, sitting around playing all different types of music and she loved being included in those special nights.  “My dad listened to a wide range of music but mostly country and Americana from the 70’s so Grand Parsons, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, The Eagles, and The Band,” she tells us. She also recalls listening to Hank Williams, Johnny Cash and Alison Krauss, whose country and Americana influences ring true in her vibe and her sound.

Heading to Nashville after high school, she attended Belmont University and signed her first publishing deal with Carnival Music during her junior year.  “My friend who was interning at Carnival called me and told me to send her everything I’ve ever written, she said don’t ask questions just send me everything, so I sent her an email with recordings and songs I had written,” Brill explains.  “The rest is history, I got my publishing deal a few months later.”

Brill has recently released two brand new songs out into the world, “Good Story” and “Giving Up”, both showcase what she has been up to the last three years since her debut album.  The former, written by Luke Dick and Jon Randall describes her life on the road but is also relatable to all who have made choices based on the stories they could tell afterward.  “I’ve been out making all sorts of good stories on the road, it was meant to just be fun,” she tells us. “I’ve been having so much fun on the road, I wanted that song to represent that piece of my life.”

The latter, Brill wrote with Jacob Powell and Randy Montana and it delves into her personal life and a breakup that she went through.  She feels releasing both of the songs together really represent both ends of the spectrum and set the stage for more new music in the near future.

Brill just got back from a multi-city European tour and is currently working on releasing more new music, with hopes to release a full-length album soon.  “At this point, we have paired off a lot of songs from this new project, we have started releasing them without having a date for the new album,” she explains.  “I was ready to release new music, we want to just see and build a story for a full album release. We want to put it out in pieces so the fans can have time to digest each song.”

To keep up with Logan Brill, follow her socials on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

 

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Thank You for supporting Country Music in NYC & Beyond!

Subscribe to our Weekly Round-Up here 
for ticket giveaways, meet & greet contests, upcoming events,
and all things country music in the New York metro area and beyond!

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